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By GreatSchools Staff
Parent involvement is one of the main tenets of the No Child Left Behind Act, which authorizes federal funds for this purpose. U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige said, "Parents must be full partners in their child's education. Parents have a right to know whether their child is learning, and local schools and districts must be sure that parents have that information. No Child Left Behind provides a lifeline to parents by giving them information regarding not only how their child is achieving academically, but also how their school and school district are performing as well."
The law requires schools that receive Title I funds (58% of all public schools in the U.S.) to develop a written parent involvement policy and to have a school-parent compact that describes how the school will work with parents to improve achievement. In addition, every school district that receives Title I money (90% of all school districts) must have a written Title I parent involvement policy that is evaluated each year. (Title I schools are determined by the number of students who receive free and reduced-price lunches.)
Under No Child Left Behind, each school district must reserve at least 1% of its total Title I grant for parent involvement. Some spend these funds on salaries of employees who are supposed to help engage parents in schools; others use them to pay for parent training programs.
Other potential sources of funding for school improvement efforts by parents are foundations, large businesses, and state and federal agencies that have funds designated for academic improvement and parent involvement (such as federal "Gear Up" programs designed to increase the number of low-income students going to college and Parent Information and Resource Centers).
Colleges that train teachers are beginning to wake up to the need to incorporate parent involvement in their courses and may invite participation by local parents. Joyce Epstein, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who serves as director of the Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships, said deans and chairs of departments of schools that grant education degrees were "brutally honest" in admitting during a 2001 survey that their graduates were not prepared to invite parent involvement in schools.
A recent poll of 161 institutions found that one-third of graduates receiving advanced degrees in education had written their master's or doctoral thesis on the topic of parent or community involvement. "Professors are becoming more aware of the need for training in this area," said Epstein.
She is working with schools, districts and state departments of education to build programs that foster partnerships between schools, families and communities. Her National Network of Partnership Schools currently has 900 schools and 100 school district members, along with some PTAs and the National PTA.
Epstein wants all children to benefit from parent involvement. "It's a question of equity," she said. "Studies show that students who have families that are involved tend to do better in many ways, including achievement, aspirations and postsecondary plans. That's been the case with individual parents who have made it their choice to be involved. What we're trying to do is make that process more inclusive - to take responsibility for conducting programs that will inform and involve parents of all economic, ethnic, racial and cultural groups, in all parts of the country and in all school levels: elementary, middle and high school."
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